After a very busy end of fall, and the holidays, we’ve been somewhat hibernating! We had some snow in November, and snow cover since early December. Snow on Christmas Day, then some very cold weather, below zero and single digits, and then some thawing and ice in January which was warmer than average.  A few days ago we had 6 inches of snow, and it is snowing as I write this with 6-12 inches expected.  The house has performed very well, and we are staying warm and cozy!

The last outside project we worked on was the 3-season porch on the west side. Tim managed to get the roof sheathed (in process below left), and covered with tarps, before real snow (below right), but we did not get the standing seam roof on– that will have to wait for spring.

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While the ground was still clear, we had trees cleared from along the driveway where we will put up photo voltaic panels in the spring. When these are operational, we will be close to net zero for our electricity.

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With the first substantial snow we got to start using the new snow-blower for the first time! We still have to do some shoveling, especially around the vehicles (which we now park at the top of the driveway), but it’s not bad, and it is great to be in control of the snow clearing.


During November Jeff Solsaa, who did our insulating and installed the sheetrock ceiling upstairs, at our request came back with a friend and finished the mudding and sanding. We slept on the airbed downstairs, and had everything upstairs covered in plastic etc. They were working in between other jobs, in the evenings, and for various reasons it ended up taking almost a month. We were thrilled to move back upstairs just before Christmas! And after Christmas Tim painted the ceiling. (Before and after below.) Since then we have painted the vertical sheet rock wall on the south side a lovely light green.

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Additional interior improvements include a rug on our “living room” floor and our beloved sturdy coffee table, retrieved from the storage unit, and Tim put up lights (down lights on a cable) over the dining table:

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And, Tim built us a simple bed frame! We have been on a mattress on the floor since we arrived in Vermont, which has not been a problem, but SO NICE to be up off the floor!

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We enjoyed a peaceful and quiet Christmas Day, that included snow, phone calls, our favorite dinner, and an outing on our snow gliders. No photo, but a local friend invented them — narrower than snow shoes, much shorter and wider than cross country skiis, with some of the best attributes of both.

I’ve continued to enjoy playing my recorder, both lessons and ensemble, and with another friend. In December our ensemble performed at La Salette in Enfield, New Hampshire. Chris Rua, my teacher, is on the left with the giant contra bass recorder. (L to R: Chris, Deirdre, Peter, Thelma; me, Tracy)

Recorder ensemble

We’ve loved having friends over. Also, I get together with several other women to knit (Tuesday mornings at the post office!), one of whom will turn 96 later this month. I’m also enjoying volunteering with a grade 3-4 class at The Newton School, Strafford’s K-8 public school. Tim has been working a lot on organizing his basement workshop, quite a task!

I’ll finish with some of my favorite snow photos! I now understand why the Inuit have many words for snow — every snowfall is different. The flakes are different, sometimes lots of snow sticks to the trees, sometimes not, etc. The first photo is the view from our south windows, the second up the driveway on a beautiful sunny day! I always like the cobalt sky and the blue stripes of shadows across the snow when the sun is out…

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Until next time!


Stick Season and lots more progress!

What a busy fall!

We got trim boards painted right before the rented boom lift arrived (Oct. 4):

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First we got the south side as finished as we needed. We made “fake” board and batten above the clapboards  with plywood triangles and battens on top — much easier to accomplish than real boards and battens!  Tim can finish painting the clapboards from the roof platforms.


So we moved right on to the north side, which needed much more work to complete, including sofits (under the edge of the roof), battens, more clapboards, trim and the painted “fake” board and battens (all cut to angled lengths) at the top:

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And I did get up in the boom lift for some of this!


We worked from dawn till dark (and sometimes with headlamps) to get everything we needed to do accomplished while we had the boom lift for just 5 days. Below, finishing up the north side (L) and the south side finally complete a bit later (R) Yay!:

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Right after the boom lift, my sister Ellen and brother-in-law John visited for 9 wonderful days!  We did some fun things, including some sight-seeing, plus they and our son Ethan, who also visited, helped with several tasks. One was moving the shelter tent (and all the lumber supplies within) to the northeast corner of the house. We were happy that we could just pick it up at the corners and walk it over, did not have to dismantle it first. This means we have a nicer view out the east windows and should avoid the kind of snow problems we had last year.


Meanwhile, Tim started working on the beginnings of the 3-season porch on the west side. First he dug holes for the footings — some 2 feet by 2 feet by 5 feet deep! He used sonotubes, here one of the biggest. The tubes had to be carefully placed in the correct (and vertical) position, with soil filled in around them. Then Tim had to mix lots of concrete; a friend loaned us a powered mixer which helped a lot!  The last photo shows a finished footing. A bolt embedded in the concrete eventually attaches to a metal fastener that holds the post above it in place.

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When the posts were anchored and attached to the rim joist (against the house), the floor joists could be put in:

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Next, Tim prepared the posts and beams (note the carefully notched ends), which went together perfectly when we put them up!

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Finally, we were able to put up the rafters and ridgepole.  Then we had to rig some covering with rain and snow coming…

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We have already gotten a bit further than I have photos —  will show you more next time!

Another big event this fall was that Tim rowed in a men’s 8 in the Head of the Charles on Oct. 21! We drove down to Boston and had a great day! While Tim’s boat did not “win”, they rowed very well! I watched from the Weeks Bridge, and could easily pick out Tim in his red jacket, here rowing to the start!


Now we are in the short dark days, “stick season” before snow comes to lighten things up.  We’ve had a few snow flurries, and recently some nights in the teens.  But here are some remembrances of fall in October — the last red maple leaves, tiny birds nest fungi (in November), and the view from our front door:

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We continue to be very happy here, and wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving!


Autumn, and progress

As usual, time has flown by, and I’m finally sitting down to update this blog!

The weather has been a bit weird — a cool and somewhat rainy August, then hot (for here!) and dry most of September. And then the last two nights were suddenly in the 30’s, enough frost to do in the basil and the squash vines in the garden. But now at least it actually feels like fall!

Since I last wrote, we finished painting the north side, completed the west side, and have done most of what we can on the south side above the roof.  A brief review of the process: First you put up furring strips, venting material around windows, trim around the windows, then clapboards — one at a time, nailed on every foot. A lot must be cut to size, sometimes dry-fitted, etc. and carefully spaced and level. Put them up from the bottom up, then paint (actually opaque stain) from the top down.  And there are also soffit vents under the eaves and finally the frieze board (the trim at the top of the clapboards). Whew!

Here is the west wall complete as high as we could go (and scaffolding taken down), as of 8/1:


Then we put up the scaffolding on the west wall (around the corner to the right in the photo above) and started work on that. (The red things on the poles are pump jacks, so you can raise and lower the platform.) In 10 days we had gotten this far:


The “triangle” on the right outlines where the roof will be for the 3-season porch we will build out from the house. We’ll leave out those clapboards next to the roof till the roof is constructed as the layers of roofing and the clapboards have to go on in a certain order.  For working on this side we moved the chop saw to the southwest corner and put up our pavilion tent over it — I appreciated the shade when the sun was out, and it made keeping things dry easier!  As usual, Tim gave me measures, I cut clapboards to length as needed, started the nails in each end, and handed them up; he did the up high work.

In mid August I went off to Early Music Week at Pinewoods Music Camp in Massachusetts, where I played my recorders, had wonderful classes, and learned English Country Dancing!  I learned a lot and had a fabulous time! While I was gone, Tim covered the Roxul around the foundation with lathe and special cement — he worked hard! The cement will protect the Roxul from weathering. The picture below shows part of the wall next to the basement walk-out.


And then we continued working on the west wall. Here is Tim working up in the gable. Luckily he can work in tight spaces! Note the jacket and hat. This was September 1, and it was unusually cool, and the first red maple leaves were coming down.

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By 9/18 we had the west wall almost complete! When done, we removed the platforms from the scaffolding.


Next we started on the south wall above the roof. Our first challenge was setting up the platform on the roof. Tim made wedge-shaped supports so the platform would be level, with pieces of non-slip shelf liner underneath to prevent slipping.  First we managed to get the frames for the platforms up on the roof (I pushed each up a ladder on the lower side of the roof till Tim could grab hold and carry it up to the supports).  Below (as of 9/19) you can see the wedges and the frames in place, and the decking pieces on the left ready to attach:


Tim is able to climb up this ladder to get to the platform, and then I carried up all the furring strips and all the clapboards. Happily, we have gotten pretty good at measuring and cutting so we did not have dry fit any clapboards, which greatly reduced the time it took and meant many fewer trips up the ladder for me! (The bucket you see only worked for small stuff, tools, etc.)


Putting up the first few courses of clapboards was challenging and really hard on Tim’s knees and back!


By 9/27 we had clapboards up about as far as we can go. This went pretty fast, considering that it was so hot (in the 80’s, record highs for us here) that we didn’t work from about 11 till 3 or so most days:


Now we are about ready to paint this wall (will I manage to get up on that roof??). But, with good weather predicted, we have a rented a boom lift for 5 days next week. The rest of the building materials will be delivered today, then we will prime and paint like crazy. Once the boom lift is here, we will get right to work to finish the highest parts of the north and south sides, including soffits (under the eaves) and trim. Yippee!!!  (We can finish this painting later.) And then we can start constructing the porch…  :~)  Tim has spent quite a lot of time planning the porch, figuring out snow loads and other issues in order to design it correctly.

All this time, Tim has continued rising very early to row 5 morning a week, and has been competing in some head races. We are excited that he will be in his club’s first (ie “best”) men’s 8 competing in the Head of the Charles race in Boston in October! (I don’t get up as early as Tim, but often practice my recorder music while he is gone.)

A special treat in August/September was seeing Monarch butterflies!  We had a caterpillar on a milkweed plant growing next to the sunflowers, and it made a chrysalis! The beautiful green chrysalis got very dark, and we checked it frequently, and saw it soon after the butterfly emerged! This particular Monarch had a slightly deformed wing (probably related to the black spot you can see on the chrysalis beyond it in the photo below), so we recognized it at our flowers a week later! Another Monarch visited me while cutting clapboards, perching on my hand, my arm, my tool bag, etc. while I was working — how cool and how beautiful!

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We have continued to enjoy flowers blooming, and our vegetable garden has been quite prolific.  We are happy to have a good freezer, but have also canned pickles and applesauce. The tomatoes especially have appreciated the hot sunny September, and we are eating lots of them! This photo is from 8/23. The beans and cucumbers are finished, but we have been harvesting lots of squash and tons of tomatoes!


Below is from 9/20, what we see from the southeast corner of the house. You can see leaves changing (and fallen!), the late blooming perennials in the “bank” garden, and our full wood shed! (The building in the background is the “camp,” now garden shed, that we built in 2008, and the the curvy pipe on the right of the garden is the vent from the septic system — someday to be painted a more camouflage color!)


And here are some of our last flowers — a painted lady butterfly on a tithonia blossom, and wild asters which the bees love (can you spot the bee below?) — a sure sign of fall!

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We remain very happy, enjoying ourselves and appreciating the great friends we have made here! Until next time…

Clapboards on the north side!

After a cool and damp June and early July, we have finally made real progress on the clapboards! We are also enjoying the summer and our gardens are looking great!

On June 22 we started to work on the north wall of the house.  First we had to install the “water table”, with furring strips behind it. Flashing on top of that, and the corner boards on the corner. In the photo below the wide kind of limp board is the water table, and Tim already attached the two corner boards at right angles. They are even longer than they look here — the corner boards go from the first floor all the way up to the roof, all in one unit.


And here they are in place on the house! A little tricky to manage the very long boards, but we did it!


Then we had to put up lots more furring strips.  We knew we wanted to be very precise with the spacing (every foot) so we would not have to trim every clapboard to size, and Tim was also careful to put them up plum.


Next we had to erect the scaffolding, and then start putting up clapboards!  This photo was taken on July 4. We worked really well on the clapboards — we could use the 6 foot boards (only had to cut to size at the east end).  I started the nails on the two ends and Tim put them up; they get nailed by hand every foot (into the furring strips). The only tricky part was getting them nailed up behind the two compressors!



Because all the clapboards are not perfectly straight (especially the 6-footers), Tim checked every one for level as he was nailing them up.

Tim added the window trim, and we put up the rest of the scaffolding, and more clapboards.


Tim did the highest up work, and I climbed up one ladder or another to hand him boards and tools as needed…


By 7/23 we had clapboarded as high as Tim could safely go and the limits of the scaffolding. Exciting!


Next, we started painting (the grey of the clapboards is the primer). It is tricky to get the bottom edges of the boards completely covered.  I even got up on the scaffolding to paint (but no photo!). Anyway, but the end of yesterday, it was almost done:


Tim finished the painting this afternoon, and tomorrow, with good weather forecast, we will move the scaffolding to the west side and get started with the furring strips etc. Great to have made so much progress!

Meanwhile, we are enjoying snow peas, sugar snap peas, swiss chard and kale from the garden, and we have picked the first early tomatoes this week! Cucumbers, beans and squashes are on the way! Here is the garden as of 7/20. The newspaper is covering newly planted sugarsnap and snow peas. The red is the stems of red chard.


But, because of all the rain in June, we have been battling slugs in the garden — hundreds of slugs! We have been picking them off (and drowning them in salt water) morning and night, hundreds per day at first, 50 to 100 per day now or fewer when it is dry. All sizes, orange, brown and grey, and a few snails thrown in. They especially like new sprouts, so some things we planted directly in the bails we’ve had to replant. We are also using slug bait and slug traps, but they are not very effective.  However, overall, we are winning, I think! And most recently we’ve been catching mice that were digging up our newly planted pea seeds.  Oh well!

And we are enjoying lots of wildflowers, especially black-eyed Susans and Queen Anne’s Lace, plus gorgeous different daylilies coming out each day, and our sunflowers. Here are a few:

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Hope you are enjoying the summer! Until next time…




Since I last posted, winter has ended and spring has sprung!  As usual, we have been keeping happily busy. Tim’s rowing season is well under way, and I’ve been having fun with my recorders, and our daughter Riva visited, as well as my sister Marilyn from California! And, we have also gotten some work done on the house itself.

After my last post, we had even more snow! As of April 1:


The snow gradually melted, till this was all that was left of the mountain above as of 4/25:


Ten days earlier the first colt’s foot was blooming (see below), the pulmonaria opened its first flowers, and the crumpled rhubarb leaves were beginning to appear, all welcome signs of spring coming even while the snow was still hanging around!


Meanwhile, our electrician Tom Root came and pretty much finished the wiring, so the extension cords could disappear, we got live plugs, and the first few lighting fixtures! Tim also installed a flat screen (bottom of photo below; on the back side of the stove, it faces the south windows) so we can enjoy movies from time to time.


In May Tim fashioned temporary counters and shelves, and we moved our kitchen operation from the mud room to what will be our real kitchen! Great to have everything in one place!


(Below, the refrigerator is just out of view on the right.)


And ceiling mounted down-lights illuminating the counters!


We also got to work on the outside of the house.  In May we painted the rest of the boards and battens and finished the lower south side, and as of a couple of days ago we turned the corner and are partly done with the west side of the south “bay”. It is surprising how much time it takes for the measuring, spacing, nailing, screwing, and getting each board plumb…  We now have our “system” down and are enjoying great satisfaction in working together!



Meanwhile, the trees leafed out (leaf buds were just swelling at the end of April), and we enjoyed more beautiful early spring flowers like the trout lilies and forget me nots (see below) followed by apple trees and lilacs blooming, and the first Jack-in-the-pulpits.

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In late April we moved the 24 additional straw bales we had left in the basement, and tripled the size of our straw bale vegetable garden for this year. We can re-use the 12 bales from last year (those are the dark bales at the far end in the right hand photo below), and started conditioning the new bales. We started lots of vegetables indoors, and have just finished planting everything out in the last few days.

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Above, you can see a wooden “box” at the lower left, with potatoes. Beyond that in the ground are  some our tomato plants — we planted 18, of nine different varieties!! At the far corner are two kinds of peas – the first seeds we planted, in the old bales. The horizontal boards above the bales are for tying up tomatoes, beans and cucumbers. And you can see the nice electric fence (and gate) that Tim put up. So far we are not having problems with deer or rodents, but there are some mighty fine slugs around, and the fence is no deterrent to them!

At the end of April we took a day off to participate in the Climate Day Rally in Montpelier, and in May we got up really early one morning to see around 30-some hot air balloons go up in Post Mills, a nearby small town!

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Also at the end of April, we had our big piles of wood scraps (from the logging and milling) turned into wood chips!


This was an exciting process that Tim and I helped with (a little).  It is great to have those big piles of slash gone. And it is a good thing to now have a mountain of wood chips for mulching! My perennial garden is coming along nicely, with many additions (a couple of plant sales and some wonderfully generous friends!), and I’ll make good use of the wood chips!  I promise some pictures in the future… But for now, here is the first iris blooming. I was given this plant by my relatives in Bethel from the bunch growing outside their house.


Happy summer!

Snow, melt, and more snow!

Again, not much visible house progress, just more planning to figure out where we want lights, outlets etc., which is more complicated than it might seem.  In between, it seems like we kept busy shoveling snow!

We had accumulated some snow on the ground, then we had a warm spell and a lot melted, but then it froze again. Then we had several snowfalls that added up, then 8 to 10 inches more. Some places around our house had two feet or more accumulated! We also learned the hard way about how much snow comes down off our roof! Here are some pictures…

February 10:


February 13 — MORE snow!


So much snow came off the roof right next to the tent “garage” that we had to shovel that out. Very soon the pile was so high, Tim resorted to shoveling snow into the wheel barrow and taking it up the driveway, where he needed a ramp to get it over the pile left by the snowplow clearing our driveway!

Tim is 6’5″…




The next day we had more snow…


You get the idea!

Then we had another warm spell, enough to make the roads muddy (a harbinger of mud season). By March 6 lots of snow had melted, but we still had nearly 2 feet accumulated in some places, bare ground in a few places. But we had enough snow and perfect weather to (legally) burn a couple of the slash piles that are too far from the driveway to move anywhere. It took all day (and they were still smoldering that night), and was pretty fun!  It took awhile to get the fire burning, and then it really roared! There are still unburnt logs, but this pile is greatly reduced:



In the meantime, Tim helped a friend with maple sugaring so he could learn more about doing it. The sap runs when it goes below freezing at night, followed by above freezing temperatures during the day, but stops if it stays below freezing or above freezing all day and all night. So the sap run can start and stop multiple times during a season. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. We might tap our row of maples next year…

Also, we had the annual Town Meeting. It is all day the first Tuesday in March in many Vermont towns and the custom goes way back. Ours takes place in the beautiful Strafford Town House, built in 1799. Amazing to think of all the town meetings that have been held there!  People are voted into office, the budget is passed, and other motions discussed and voted on. Very local! This year Tim was elected as one of the three Listers for Strafford, who as a group are responsible for approving the “Grand List,” which quantifies the fair market value of every parcel of real property in the town, that in conjunction with the tax rate, determines how much local tax one pays to support the town and local schools.  The PTA oversees a fantastic lunch buffet as a fund raiser. In the afternoon is the School Board meeting.

Along the way, dinners with friends, birthday cake with the small knitting group that meets at the upper village Post Office(!), work at the library, and preparing presentations for our local Cabin Fever University (one on cake decorating, one on straw bale building) coming up soon.

Another week went by, and then we had the nor’easter winter storm Stella. We didn’t get nearly as much snow as some places, but it was enough! Fourteen inches! We went out in the afternoon to do some shoveling and remove snow from the woodshed roof before it got too deep and heavy (we have a piece of plastic over most of the wood).


The next morning (3/15) it looked like this:




Even though the winter snow means shoveling (and I didn’t mention digging the car out!), I still love it!  However, I will enjoy spring when it comes… and our seed order just came in!


Winter Report

As usual, I can’t quite believe how long it has been since I’ve posted. One reason is that we have not been working very much on the house! Holidays, trip to Michigan to visit our daughter and son-in-law over New Year’s weekend, I participated in the Women’s March in D.C., we had colds, we have hibernated some! And as usual, we have enjoyed some good times with friends here as well as good books, some snow-shoeing, I have been making music, and Tim has been rowing (on the ERG machine), etc.

So, after the last post, we did more work on the exterior before the weather got really cold, including moving all the remaining lumber under cover (most into the tent shelter). We needed to repair all the remaining slits in the tar paper (the slits were from when the insulation was blown in).


Above is the west wall. You can see one repair above the window on the left. I cut pieces of tar paper and handed them up to Tim to slide under the flaps and nail down.

Tim made and we installed the window trim on the lower part of the south side:


Yes, this is 11/30 and that is snow on the ground that had slid off the roof a couple of days earlier. We also fixed more tar paper after some more snow a few days later!

Then we had a few “warm” days so we put up more board and battens on this south wall. Had to be above 40 degrees for painting…


We managed to finish from the door to the southeast corner, including painting!

Friends here had a wreath-making party, so we had a lovely wreath to get ready for Christmas:


Our beautiful house is kind of like a movie set — looks great from the front, but the rest is tar paper!

We are learning more about living with winter here, after last year’s unusually warm and almost snow-less winter. This year we have had small amounts of snow periodically, but with some melting in between so lots of ice underneath. We have kept our car up by the “lumber yard” because of the ice, and are learning when we need to have the lane sanded, and it only gets plowed when 4 inches or more of snow. We learned the hard way to do any shoveling as soon as possible after the snow stops – it is much easier than later! We rarely go out without our “stable-icers” – a kind of stretchy rubber network with cleats on the bottom that fits over one’s boots and is very effective to keep you from slipping. Tim built a good roof for our wood pile, and we also got a big wood rack for the front porch. Last fall at a yard sale we acquired a purple plastic toboggan. The day before Christmas we went sliding on our neighbor’s hillside! Since then it has proven very useful for hauling firewood (from the wood pile to the front porch), groceries and laundry down the driveway, like this!


And more snow. Each snow seems different. Some is light and fluffy, sometimes the flakes are huge, other times very small. Often the snow sticks to all the tree limbs like this:


Beautiful! (this was January 18).

The last few days Tim has been working on the stud wall that goes between the second floor and the south shed roof. This wall has to be constructed before we can have our electrician come to do the interior wiring. We also wanted to have a way to move warm air from the south room (where the wood stove and the mini-split are) to our future bedroom back in the northwest corner. Tim figured out how to use a couple of computer fans and some “custom” duct work to accomplish this, another detail to be done in conjunction with this stud wall. It will also have an opening with sliding doors so when we want to have more heat upstairs, we can have it!


Tim constructed the stud wall in several sections on the second floor, then “manhandled” it into place. Below is a view from downstairs after installation:


The rectangular opening centered between the lower braces is where the sliding doors will go. We have put plastic up behind it because sometimes we get more heat upstairs than we want.

While it will be a long time yet till Spring, I have been enjoying wonderful house plants! Some I brought from home, others are from cuttings friends have given me. And we had poinsettias for Christmas (a local PTA fundraiser), plus I am now babysitting some plants for our neighbor while she is away.


I love having blooming geraniums during the winter!


And here is my favorite special one – white with pink speckles!


I hope you all are enjoying the winter!